Accumulation of heavy metals in tilapia fish species and related histopathological changes in muscles, gills and liver of Oreochromis niloticus occurring in the area of Qahr El-Bahr, Lake Al-Manzalah, Egypt

Amal M. Yacoub, Soaad A. Mahmoud, Amaal M. Abdel-Satar

Paper category: Original research paper
Corresponding author: Amaal M. Abdel-Satar (
DOI: 10.2478/oandhs-2021-0001
Received: 26/07/2020
Accepted: 02/10/2020
Full text: here

Citation: Yacoub, A., Mahmoud, S. & Abdel-Satar, A. (2021). Accumulation of heavy metals in tilapia fish species and related histopathological changes in muscles, gills and liver of Oreochromis niloticus occurring in the area of Qahr El-Bahr, Lake Al-Manzalah, Egypt. Oceanological and Hydrobiological Studies, 50(1), 1-15.


Accumulation of metals (Fe, Zn, Cu, Mn, Pb, Cd and Ni) in the muscles and gills of Oreochromis niloticus, Oreochromis aureus and Tilapia zillii was assessed based on seven locations in the Qahr El-Bahr area in Lake Al-Manzalah. The average accumulation of metals was in the following order: Tilapia zillii > Oreochromis aureus > Oreochromis niloticus. To determine the risk of fish consumption, the estimated daily intake, carcinogenic, non-carcinogenic and relative risk indices were calculated. The results indicate that the intake of individual metals through the consumption of fish is almost safe for human health, whereas the intake of combined metals poses a high potential health risk to consumers. Assessment of carcinogenic risk of Cd and Ni from the consumption of tilapia species indicates that consumers are at risk of cancer. The contribution of Pb and Cd to the overall relative risk index ranged from 34% to 41%. Of the three species studied, Oreochromis niloticus is relatively safe for consumption as it poses the least health hazard, while Tilapia zillii is more predisposed to accumulate metals in its tissues. Histopathological changes were observed in the muscles, gills and liver of Oreochromis niloticus as a result of heavy metal accumulation in these organs.


The study showed that tilapia fish species caught in the area of Qahr El-Bahr in Lake Al-Manzalah contained varying concentrations of metals and the degree of their accumulation varied among different tilapia species. The average level of heavy metals ranged as follows: Tilapia zillii > Oreochromis aureus > Oreochromis niloticus. The accumulation rate of heavy metals in the muscles and gills of tilapia fishes were in the following order; Fe > Zn > Ni > Mn > Cu > Pb > Cd. The studied metals do not pose carcinogenic health hazards individually but their combined effects are potentially hazardous to the health of consumers (HP > 1). The muscles of Oreochromis niloticus occurring in the Qahr El-Bahr area of Lake Al-Manzalah are almost safe for human consumption. Thus, Oreochromis niloticus can withstand the risk of heavy metals in the study area. In general, a moderate intake of tilapia fish from Lake Al-Manzalah is strongly recommended for consumers to avoid serious health problems, including cancer and kidney malfunctions. Histopathological changes, including degeneration, fatty degeneration, necrosis, edema, hemorrhage, hemolysis, hemosiderin, curling and hyperplasia were found in the muscles, gills and liver of Oreochromis niloticus due to the accumulation of heavy metals in fish organs.


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